“This year was special as it was a symbol of the community returning to some semblance of normalcy after 20 months in isolation. Adding the lighting of the towers at American Tobacco Campus and Rocky Mount Mills is a great way to showcase the reach of Capitol Broadcasting and reinforce our commitment to the regions we serve.”
–WRAL-TV’s Leesa Moore
Capitol Broadcasting brought the best of three different company locations together to brighten the Triangle for the holidays by lighting the towers at WRAL-TV, American Tobacco and Rocky Mount Mills on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
In a first step towards a return to normalcy, events for the public were held at American Tobacco and Rocky Mount Mills, with fun from all three locations broadcast in a half-hour special on WRAL-TV at 7pm.
A Long-time Tradition
Several employees involved in the annual event have been part of bringing the fun to the Triangle for many years.
“This my 21st Tower lighting I had and active role in,” said WRAL-TV News Chief Photographer Ed Wilson. “I have seen 31 Tower lightings during my time at CBC.
“The event was exciting as always,” he said of the 2021 event. “I love this time of year so much joy and hope in the air.”
CBC has been lighting the TV tower for the holidays for 63 years.
“I truly believe turning our 300-foot TV tower into a lighted tree is CBC’s gift to the community,” said WRAL-TV Director of News Operations, Sports & Special Projects Leesa Moore. “It is a time-honored tradition that I’m proud to have been part of for over 30 years.”
WRAL-TV News Producer Kelly Riner plays a key role in the production every year.
“Tower Lighting is always a HUGE project for multiple departments and CBC divisions,” she said. “It’s great getting to work with everyone on something that’s happy and brings joy!”
From the CBC teams who decorate the company properties to the Master Control operators and engineers who make sure the lights light and the broadcast stays on air, a large number of employees come together to make the night a success.
“I really feel like the decorations outside looked the best they’ve ever looked,” said Riner. “From our anchors on the plaza to the ones in the field, everyone brought their A-game.”
A large crew worked on the ground, and two staffers even took to the air as WRAL-TV News Photographer Keith Baker and pilot Robbie Jones provided an incredible Sky 5 view of the festivities.
WRAL-TV personalities did hosting duties on all three campuses.
“Lena Tillett pulled double duty doing live shots and emceeing the live event at ATC,” explained Riner. “Dan Haggerty found a little girl in the crowd who was so excited about the tower lighting there. He let her push the magic button and made for one of the most memorable moments in the show. Our featured entertainer, Rory John Zak got David to dance a little!”
The night is full of excited energy among the staff.
“We had a great team in the control room and in the remote truck outside,” said Riner. “There was truly so much experience working on that show… and I think that’s what made it all work. We were certainly thrown some curveballs and challenges, but everything was clean on air… just a true testament to the team we had in EVERY position.”
“I’m so grateful the company values this tradition and am honored to be part of it every year.”
— WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner
CBC stays in tune with the community, to truly make the event meaningful.
“We always try to match the tone of the special to the year our viewers have experienced,” said Moore. “In 2001 for example, we produced a more somber, but powerful program with The Durham Police Choir as our performers. We ended the show with a collection of first responder vehicles lining the WRAL driveway. It was a message of thanks and hope.”
Having actual events in Durham and Rocky Mount Mills, as well as having a few viewers standing outside to see the anchors flip the switch in Raleigh, was a big change from last December.
“This year was special as it was a symbol of the community returning to some semblance of normalcy after 20 months in isolation,” said Moore. “Adding the lighting of the towers at American Tobacco Campus and Rocky Mount Mills is a great way to showcase the reach of Capitol Broadcasting and reinforce our commitment to the regions we serve.”
Lucky Strike Lights in Durham, Fun Brewing in Rocky Mount
CBC lit the Lucky Strike Tower at American Tobacco for the 17th time this year. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 folks came to participate in the fun in person as the program showcased young talent from Durham and around the Triangle. American Tobacco gave away 2,000 light wants courtesy of Dominion Energy and NC811.
“The energy created by the LIVE audience was amazing!” said ATC Events & Property Experience Director Valerie Ward.
The crew at ATC was happy to welcome guests back to the night’s festivities. Last year the tower lighting went on with no guests due to the pandemic.
Rocky Mount Mills hosted a variety of activities and special guests for the folks who came to campus for their arm of the tower lighting trio.
“We had so much fun kicking off the holiday season with you!” said RMM Assistant Property Manager Julie Baggett of the crowd who gathered to watch the lighting of the Rocky Mount Mills water tower.
Davenport Autopark sponsored the fun at CBC’s hub in Eastern NC.
“It was a night full of joy, with WRAL TV’s Dan Haggerty , Randy McQuay, Santa & Mrs. Clause, The Grinch, horse carriage rides through River & Twine and our community!” said Baggett.
Ultimately, CBC truly loves giving this gift to the community each December.
“The special also gives us a chance to have fun!” said Moore. “Yes, it’s stressful to pull it all together, especially at three locations, but the end product is worth all the worry and work. Months of planning mean nothing if you don’t have the people to fulfill the vision, and we have some incredible employees who double as miracle workers!”
Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner, Lori Grant, Leesa Moore, Kat Campbell, Michelle McNeil, Ed Wilson, ATC’s Valerie Ward & RMM’s Julie Baggett for these Capcom photos.
SLIDESHOW: 2021 WRAL-TV Tower Lighting
SLIDESHOW: 2021 American Tobacco Tower Lighting
SLIDESHOW: 2021 Rocky Mount Mills Tower Lighting